Why Do Fewer Women Heliski, Compared To Men?

April 22, 2017

So much to smile about when you are surrounded by untouched snow and have a helicopter to access it!

So much to smile about when you are surrounded by untouched snow and have a helicopter to access it!

Something that is always intriguing is, why are there fewer women heliskiing compared to men?

My general observation of women who visit our Southern Lakes Heliski office, is that many of them feel too intimidated by the idea of heli-skiing, and there seems to be a common expectation of “being able to keep up”?

Being a female myself, and one who has been heliskiing a number of times, there is a process that one’s mind goes through when you make the decision to do an activity that is perceived beyond your comfort zone. It’s a big step, but once you make that step and look back, you realise how small a step it really was.  Once the choice has been made it can be extremely liberating, and you’ll find your comfort zone just grew that little bit wider.

There is heliski terrain for everyone and the powder is pristine in New Zealand’s backcountry.

There is heliski terrain for everyone and the powder is pristine in New Zealand’s backcountry.

Southern Lakes Heliski has had over 30 years in the industry, the guides are experienced passionate individuals who understand what it is like to deal with fear. Every day they have to reassure and help many people override their own minds to make their first powder turns. Skiing or boarding powder is different, but the general observation is after one run people adjust to it and just keep improving as the day goes along. Usually, after that first run, the fear of heliskiing is gone, and exhilaration replaces it. This, in turn, allows you to start enjoying your day.

The way the group is put together behind the scenes is based on ability levels, which helps the guide to be able to choose the right terrain to suit. This also helps with group dynamics as the intimidation part is taken out, and instead, the group becomes supportive and often end up “best of friends” by the end of the day.

Janina Kuzma, an international big mountain, half pipe legend making friends and enjoying the backcountry of New Zealand.

Janina Kuzma, an international big mountain, half pipe legend making friends and enjoying the backcountry of New Zealand.

Another common expectation is that you must be an “Alaskan legend who leaps out of helicopters from a great height onto a steep slope” This is not the case and the majority of people who heliski or heliboard in New Zealand are first timers, have only skied or boarded on piste, and often are of intermediate level. There is so much terrain variety in New Zealand’s backcountry that within one run area there can be a mixture of steeps and wide open slopes allowing there to be something for everyone.

One of my best heliski days ever was a private charter with two dads and their 12 and 6-year-old daughters. The 6-year-old had only snowboarded a few times and needed encouragement to get down the mountain which was why I was out there. She managed a few runs and when she got tired she had a break, so I got to snowboard with the 12-year-old.  Her father said later she excelled in confidence and really pushed herself, due to having another female out there with her who she could look up to and respect.

Finding Nirvana…

Finding Nirvana…

The dream is to get more girls heliskiing.  Not for any reason other than they would love it, and the majority of women who are intermediate skiers and boarders are totally capable. Heliskiing is not as intimidating as it looks, it’s actually good fun. There are no crowds in the backcountry, the vistas are breathtaking, terrain amazing and the snow soft and pristine. So, ladies come and give it a go, and I bet you will have the best day of your life!

By Elysia Gibb